The holidays can be a joyous time filled with love, joy and peace, a time of festivities and fun with family and friends. However it can also be a difficult time for many. Limited financial resources, current crises, recalled losses and past disappointments can make us very sad. Even though having hope may be the last thing on our minds, it is the one thing that will change our outlook in an instant. Here’s a story about my dear friend Serena and how cultivating hope got her through a very difficult life threatening time.

When do we learn the most about who we are at our core? For many of us it is when we are in the midst of a crisis, isn’t it. During these difficult times we learn what it is like to fall down, and to feel the agony in being down. We also learn how to pick ourselves up and restore our hope.

When we have hope we believe that a better result or positive outcome is possible, even when there is evidence to the contrary. We hope for things like overcoming our problems, finding the ideal partner, landing the perfect job, winning the lottery, or a miraculous healing...

A few years ago my friend Serena was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer. Several days after the diagnosis she learned that she was pregnant too. Then, not only did the doctors tell her she had to have a mastectomy; they advised her to abort her unborn baby as well.

As you can imagine, this news completely devastated Serena and her family. They had to make several heart wrenching decisions quickly with little time to process the news.

This was the darkest time in their lives. Gone was the normal daily routine in their busy family life. This was not something they could afford to delay like the paying of a bill. This crisis demanded their full attention and immediate action.

Their faith in God was strong, yet the odds of survival were stacked against them. Nevertheless, their decision was clear. They would keep the baby, and proceed with the mastectomy.

Throughout her pregnancy and well afterward, Serena received weekly chemotherapy drugs, which made her very ill. I watched my friend loose her hair and her hope in the future. In its place were fear, depression and anger. She was angry at God for allowing this to happen, yet she secretly blamed herself for causing the cancer. She felt so guilty for putting her family through this nightmare.

Imagine suddenly hearing that you might die soon… and then having to go through a traumatic mutilating surgery. Then imagine that in order to save your life, you had to take drugs that could kill your unborn baby. Add that to the mood changes that come with pregnancy, trying to control your fear and anger and having to carry on as a full time wife and mom.

Serena tried SO hard to be positive for her other children. She tried to put up a good front with us too which only added to her burden. She worried constantly about everything, especially her unborn baby. It was hard to watch my dear friend go through this horrifying time in her life.

Then, one day I noticed a change in Serena. Her demeanor was different. I sensed a peace and a hopefulness that I had not seen before. The many gestures of prayer and support from friends and family had found a nesting place deep in her soul and she felt strengthened, comforted and encouraged. In her prayers, Serena received a vision and a message that God would pull her through this crisis - her hope and faith was restored.

Where do WE find hope when we are afraid, depressed or feeling lost? Many people find hope in religion, faith or belief in a greater power. Some people find hope in positive thinking, meditation and prayer. Others find hope through friends, family, professionals, or through helping others. No matter where you find it, hope will make you feel better during difficult times.

Cultivating hope reminds us that things can and will get better. When we are hopeful, we take a detour from fear, frustration and uncertainty. Having hope gives us something to look forward to, and that feels good. Feeling good partners with positive thinking and before you know it we are living better, making better choices and taking better care of ourselves. This chain of events improves our outlook on life which improves even the toughest problem.

Try this activity to create more hope in your life. Find some quiet time alone. With pen and paper and a willingness to step fully into “hope” begin writing. Allow your writing to fully explore the answer to the following sentence starter. I have hope in _______________. Write nonstop for 15 minutes without lifting the pen from the paper and do not cross out, change or judge anything you write. Write down everything that comes to mind with no censoring. As you complete this activity notice how you feel while you allow your hopefuless to grow and grow.

When we cultivate hope we heal faster and live longer and happier lives. Where in your life can you cultivate more hope?

Today, five years later, Serena has an inner strength and wisdom that was not there before. She is cancer free and enjoys a loving relationship with her healthy 5 year old daughter Samantha

Author's Bio: 

Patricia Eslava Vessey is an ICF credentialed, PCC Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Practioner, Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer, Seminar Leader, Speaker, Trainer and Co-Author of “Vibrant & Lasting Relationships” She works with people who are immobilized by limiting beliefs and behaviors. Her strategies and techniques support people in transforming these roadblocks into the successful self-empowerment they desire.